Some years ago I ditched New Year’s resolutions, which felt more like giving up something for Lent—i.e., depriving myself of something I wanted—than evolving myself into the person I wanted to become. In place of making a resolution, I began choosing a “word of the year,” a strategy I learned from then singer-songwriter Christine Kane, now president and founder of Uplevel You.
Choosing a word of the year is akin to setting an intention that guides you toward your purpose, moving you from where you are now to where you want to be. Instead of pushing upstream toward a hard-to-achieve resolution, you embody your word and allow it to permeate your consciousness. In a sense, you become your word as you take action in your day-to-day life that puts your word into practice. Your life, then, begins to mirror your word. Your word becomes your M.O.
At the end of last year, as I reflected on the year gone by and set my sights on the year to come, I realized that in previous years I’d unintentionally chosen Writing Words, words that would help me to “uplevel” my writing.
In hindsight this is not surprising given the fact that writing holds my sense of purpose, my sense of self. Indeed, like most of the women writers I work with, writing is the foundation of who I am. When I prioritize my writing, I am more present in every other area of my life. Life goes better.
On the flipside, if I allow my writing to slip from my priority list, a restless anxiety and hard-to-place irritability pervade my daily life. I feel drained and out of sync.
No wonder I had unwittingly chosen, year after year, a word to guide my writing: my writing guides me.
What better way, then, to begin a new year than to deliberately choose a Writing Word that puts your writing in the spotlight of your life and encourages you to become the writer you want to be?
How to Choose Your Writing Word
First, take stock. Notice the gap between where your writing is now and where you want it to be. What word or phrase will help you to bridge this gap?
If you are an aspiring writer, perhaps the word write will move you from where you are—aspiring—to where you want to be—writing. Write the word write on an index card and post it in your writing space. Allow it to remind you of your intention to write. Then, act on your word: write.
On the other hand, if you are someone who has been writing for years but who has drawers full of incomplete writing pieces, perhaps the word completion would return you to your work with a renewed commitment to complete one piece at a time. Post the word completion in your writing space and allow it to permeate your consciousness; become a writer who completes her writing projects.
Your Writing Word can be a word that underscores a tangible outcome you want to achieve in your writing, such as publish or submit. Or your word might echo a next step you want to take; for example, if you write alone and never show your work to others, your Writing Word might be community or share or visibility.
Perhaps you are successful in one area of writing, such as business or academic writing, but you want to write your life experiences. Your Writing Word might be memoir or personal writing.
Notice how the Writing Word in each of the above examples heeds a want or desire. That is no accident. The purpose of your Writing Word is to help you become the writer you want to become.
If a Writing Word does not come to you immediately, write your way toward it. Pose the question What do I want for my writing in 2015? in your journal or notebook. Set your timer for ten minutes and allow the answer to this question to emerge from the tip of your pen. Other questions to consider: Who do I want to BE in relationship to my writing? What story wants to be told?
Be gentle with yourself if it takes you a while to discover what you want as a writer. As women, we often become separated from our deep wants and desires (and, yes, writing is a deep and worthy desire). Sometimes it takes time and space and reflection and an honest tuning in to ourselves for our desires to re-emerge.
Ultimately, your Writing Word should put you in sync with your Self. When you light upon it, it will resonate to your core. You will experience a full-body knowing. A smile. A yes.
Last year, I chose the word vision. Writing memoir is, after all, about seeing our deeper story clearly and making sense of that story for our readers. I wanted to trust my vision for my memoir, to see it through my true eyes, and to write what only I can see the way I see it.
Throughout 2014, the word vision kept returning me to the truth of my own experience. It kept me writing my memoir from a place of honesty and integrity. And the hard stuff? The word vision was a gentle reminder that there was truth in seeing, and that even though seeing the truth was sometimes painful, there was always, buried beneath the “wreckage,” a deeper, more universal truth. Indeed, a treasure for me to discover, to see.
I have found that posting my writing word in my writing space returns me to what I want and teaches me that I can “weather the storm” and arrive at where I’m heading: my vision.
This year, as we head into the last day of 2014, I’m still settling on my Writing Word for 2015. A few of the words I’m rolling around are completion, fierceness, and effortlessness. I’m leaning toward completion. In fact, as I write this, it’s decided: completion. I want to complete all of my writing projects, even if completion demands that I stay an unexpected course.
After all, it is through our writing that we not only discover ourselves but also touch the world with the truth of who we are and what we know. Know, another excellent writing word.
How about you? What’s your Writing Word for 2015? Let us know in the comments below or on the Writing Women’s Lives Facebook page. Together let’s encourage each other to embody our own writing truth in 2015.
Special thanks to Christine Kane for introducing me to her Word of the Year so many years ago now. Go here to download her Word of the Year Discovery Toolkit.
I’m stealing the word “Uplevel” to keep my writing moving in a vertical trajectory this year. Seeing the word in this article made me realize I am looking up but my writing actions have been horizontal–getting me somewhere very slowly. It’s time for me to move UP as a writer and go to where I want to be.
Hi, Elsie. I love that the word “uplevel” resonated with you. So often, our writing word finds us, which seems to be the case for you! I am seeing you step into the truth of who you are in your writing and in your life in 2015! Best best, M
What perfect timing. As I saw your email, I gave myself permission NOT to write. I have published when I was in academia. Now, however, I feel absolutely stalled. Who wants to read what I have to say after all? What if I write something that gets me fired from my job? Then what? Oh such worry thoughts. I shall choose a word for myself. Fierce writing. Or fiercely writing. Or fearlessly fierce. Where did I put my swords?
Marcia, wow, thank you “fiercely” for so eloquently putting into words the thoughts SO MANY WOMEN have about their writing. I have heard “Who wants to read what I have to say?” many many many times. I consider it to be part of the conditioning of silence that keeps so many women from writing their truth. After all, if we believe that no one wants to read what we have to say, why bother writing it? Make no mistake: by voicing your “worry thoughts” here, you have begun the process of unstalling your writing, of discovering who you are as a writer outside of academia with a unique voice and vision (and a significant story!) of your own. As for your swords? Reread your comment. Every word a sword. To your fierce writing in 2015, Marilyn
On that note – inspired by Marcia’s word – I choose Warrior. In 2015, I need to go at my writing with strength, determination, fearlessness, and a solid belief in my cause – the telling of my story. Writing for me lately has been a battle that I have cowered from, allowing myself to be defeated by doubts, excuses, other people’s needs. I am going to stand up and fight that battle with my woman’s voice this year.
Susan, no doubt your writing–the telling of your story–holds within it a challenge you are ready to rise to. May “Warrior” guide you to your inner strength and connect you with your personal power, which IS your writing, your voice. To reading your memoir in 2015, M
Hi Marilyn. Although I very much enjoy your posts that come to me via email, this is the first time I’ve replied. I LOVE the annual word idea. The one that danced into my head almost immediately is “effortless.” Decades ago, I began writing newspaper and magazine feature articles for publication. From there I moved to facilitating non-credit writing and creativity classes for adults. I loved both. A year ago, I began writing for myself, a memoir. I have kept a journal most of my life and, as you know, memoir is very different and very satisfying. The first ten chapters flowed along easily, which doesn’t mean without time, focus, energy, and butt-to-chair diligence. In the middle of chapter 11, I came to a screeching halt. Suddenly, the fun and ease was gone and I had no more coherent words. I caught myself “trying” to continue, which, as Yoda says, is a way of “not doing.” THANK YOU for your timely suggestion, Marilyn, that led me to remember my experience that “when it’s right, it’s easy.” When it isn’t easy, something is not right. I will create an enticing design around ‘effortless’ to beckon me away from struggle. WooHoo. Happy New Year!
So interesting that you should talk about not setting resolutions as a friend of mine just said the same. She decided to set goals instead. She said it felt less restrictive and more positive. I love your idea about having a word. One immediately popped into my head – FEAR!. I realized as I said it that I actually need two words so it would be a goal and a motivation. My words for 2015 are “Banish Fear.” Fear seems to be the biggest roadblock to my writing.
Hi, Monica. I love how aware you are of fear as an obstacle to your writing, and how you knew immediately that this is your year to “banish fear.” Here’s another thought for you: considering choosing an additional word that in itself calls you out of fear–calls you toward the truth of who you are. For example, courage, brave, strong. You can still hold your initial impulse to “banish fear,” but by choosing a word that “opposes” fear, you put your attention completely on what you want–your power in the face of fear–which gives fear very little breathing room. Let me know how this goes! To knocking that roadblock down with your pinky finger, M
Whoop! Completion it is, my friend. You’re such an inspiration. I was just talking about you today, and had to pop over and see what you’re up to. I can’t wait to see you at AWP!
I’ve been working on my annual plan for 2015….that’s what I do instead of writing new year’s resolutions. One word that kept coming up for my writing is: PROLIFIC. I want to focus on quantity, believing that quality will come through practice. By writing prolifically, I can break through the inner critic and just flood the world with my words. I want to write with abandon, just turn off my inner critic and write myself silly. I know how to rewrite and edit, but letting myself write freely enough to produce something that needs rewriting and editing…that is a challenge. The word “prolific” inspires me to be abundant with my writing, believing that the more I write, the more I will write. And the more I write, the more I will have to write about. Plus I love the way the word embodies “pro-life,” which inspires me to view writing as a creative act that gives my life meaning and purpose.
Charla, I LOVE that the word “prolific” is guiding you toward writing freely and with abandon. Not only is “prolific” giving meaning to your life, it is also giving birth (life) to your book! 🙂